Web Filtering 101: Why you need it and how to implement it

Web Filtering

Web filtering is commonly referred to as content-control software.  Why your business needs web filtering, is more complex than simply blocking employees from accessing Facebook. Your employees need access to the internet for research, collaboration with the team or for sharing files; however it’s the time spent on social channels or the occasional access to unsafe websites that prove to be a problem.   All businesses need safe browsing practices, along with a good web filtering program.  So, here’s the 101 on web filtering and how to protect your business and your employees.

What is a web filter, anyway?  Times have changed and we can no longer just set up a firewall and block access to certain domains. Most websites now are a mixture of content aggregated from other sites, so a web content filtering solution needs to scan more than just the domain name.  Your web filter should block out all types of dangerous content and when necessary, also block productivity-draining sites like YouTube and Amazon.

Strengthen cybersecurity

Web filtering serves as your first line of defence against malware and other types of cyberattacks. Most attacks start with seemingly innocuous links, pop-ups, or banners that, if clicked on, lead victims to dangerous websites filled with malware and fraudulent surveys designed to steal personal information.

While some employees are extremely vigilant when browsing the internet, there’s always a chance that someone might accidentally fall for these traps. Web filtering blocks known malicious websites and other harmful materials on trusted pages to keep employees safe. If they do attempt to visit these dangerous sites, they can either be restricted access completely or redirected to a warning page.

Boost employee productivity

Although a short, five-minute leisurely browsing session is fairly harmless, the numbers can add up. According to several reports, employees could easily waste up to two hours a day visiting websites unrelated to their jobs, which is problematic for businesses. Think about it, if you’re paying 30 people $20 per hour, considering employees spend around two hours a day on the internet (on non-work related activities), that amounts to $312,000 in productivity costs a year.

Web filters help you avoid such massive costs by denying access to common distractions like social media and online shopping services. This way, you can ensure employees use their time wisely and maintain productivity levels all year round. With the right filtering solution, you can even allocate leisurely browsing time for your staff during lunch hours and breaks to boost morale and minimise procrastination at the same time.

Increase network efficiency

Apart from eating up your employees’ time, audio and video streaming services like Spotify and YouTube can consume a lot of bandwidth, which could be better spent on worthwhile apps and websites. With web filtering, you can set limits on sites that slow down your company network and reserve bandwidth for more critical systems such as VoIP or accounting software.

Reduce company liability

Web filtering is also a practical and necessary solution to protect your company from legal nightmares. For example, if an employee illegally downloads copyrighted material using the company network; you could be liable for criminal charges that can compromise your business’s reputation and finances.

Web filtering prevents employees from accessing risky sites that contain illegal, racist, and pornographic content. What’s more, it allows you to promote safe browsing practices which help ensure compliance with industry regulations.

Implementing web filtering software

There’s a lot that goes into implementing web filtering software. For starters, you need to establish a set of policies regarding what employees can or can’t do on the internet. While this can vary between each company; your policies should prevent them from:

  • Sending or posting discriminatory or threatening messages
  • Using the organisation’s time and resources for personal gain
  • Using the internet for online gambling, shopping, or games
  • Viewing obscene materials
  • Downloading large non-work files

Then, consider your options. You may be tempted to opt for free web filtering software, but tools offered by Webroot, Sophos, and Barracuda Networks are more reliable, feature-rich, and work well with other security systems.

Once you’ve chosen the software, decide on the types of websites you want to block. Generally, web filtering solutions already have vendor-provided blacklists that deny access to dangerous websites; but it must be kept up to date. As for preventing office distractions, certain programs will allow you to block content based on categories and keywords. So if your employees tend to spend hours reading up on sports; you can filter out websites that contain words like “rugby,” “footy,” or “State of Origin” to keep everyone on track.

When blocking websites, you should also take into account people’s roles in the company. Accountants may not have much reason to visit Facebook, but marketing staff responsible for managing your online reputation will need full access to social media websites. That’s why you must conduct surveys to figure out which sites are mission-critical and then set department-specific filters.

Breaks are another important consideration. Even though watching cat videos or browsing through online forums for hours can be detrimental to overall productivity, consider allocating a few minutes of leisurely browsing per day to prevent employee burnout.

After you’ve sorted out the details, you must proactively monitor the network to enforce internet usage policies. Pay attention to bandwidth consumption. Is the company bandwidth still being wasted on unnecessary activities? If so, you may need to impose tighter restrictions on certain websites to ensure vital business programs get the networking resources they need.

How can managed services help?

Web filtering software can be tricky if you don’t have a team of experts who can install and maintain it properly. Managed services providers (MSPs) will take care of the complicated back-end processes for you; so you and your employees can use the internet without any dangerous and productivity-killing distractions.

Even with a top-notch web filtering solution; leading MSPs understand you need a multi-layered defence to fend off a wide variety of threats. That’s why we here at Empower IT don’t just deliver web filtering solutions to Australian businesses; we also provide cutting-edge antivirus software, intrusion prevention systems, and security consulting services. Contact us today to truly keep your employees and your company safe.